Valley City Times-Record
Tech Students Learn Life Skills
SkillsUSA shares Christmas cheer while providing service to the community
Have you ever been sitting in a class, college or high school, and thought “Why do I need to know this? Will I ever use it?”
If so, you join the ranks of most students who, at some point in their educational career, will question the usefulness of the content being learned.
I did, too.
That isn’t to say that all education is unnecessary - far from it! But some topics just don’t get used outside of the classroom in everyday life. That can be a major distraction for students, especially if they already don’t like classroom settings.
Thankfully, there is another option for kids who prefer to be using their hands: Skilled labor. Skilled laborers are agricultural producers, house builders, HVAC workers, welders, nurses, chefs, human services workers (like barbers and cosmetologists), police officers, firefighters, manufacturers or machinists, automotive workers, and many more. There are also more abstract professions in this category, like computer programming.
Skilled laborers are today’s tradesmen - they know their trade (like cabinetmaking) and use their hands to make a living.
America runs on skilled laborers. Where would we be without houses to live in, the heater service techs who make house calls to fix our broken heating systems, plumbers, and no machine shops to fabricate equipment parts or create something new?
We would be cold and without running tractors in the current state of worldwide affairs. Farmers and ranchers, two skilled labor professions themselves, have depended on machine shops these past few years for taking up the slack where supply chain disruptions erupted.
College is an admirable pursuit if there is a career in mind - which is very tough to decide at eighteen years old. The alternative? Apprenticeship or trade school.
Skills USA is a program that started in 1965, then called Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, Inc., or VICA.
VICA was all about getting more training for students preparing to work with their hands after formal education ceased.
The VICA program had 29,534 members the very next year, in 1966.
Then in 1975, the one millionth member was inducted with 1984 bringing the 3.5 millionth member’s induction.
VICA’s staggering growth caused the program to be restructured, adding vocations and contests- even building a national center in Leesburg, Virginia.
In 2004, the name was officially changed to Skills USA and that it remains today.
Currently, Skills USA is in 53 states and territories and over 17,000 classrooms. One quarter of all US occupational areas are covered by Skills USA curriculum, as the Skills USA website details. That quarter of occupational jobs numbers 130 job categories, according to Mr. Reinke, the Vocational Center's welding teacher and lead advisor of the Valley City chapter.
This organization isn’t going it alone, though: 650 national partners made up of businesses, trade associations, and unions donate money to Skills USA and can also have some sort of apprenticeship program, in which students go through the classroom training while in high school (or after) and then are welcomed into a position at a company.
Many partner businesses are familiar names, like 3M, John Deere, Wolverine, Harbor Freight, Lowes, Stanley Black and Decker, Volvo, Nestle, Carharrt, Nissan, Hypertherm, UPS, Caterpillar, Penske, and Snap-on.
The Valley City chapter is made up of 6 advising teachers and about 160 students. Both teachers and students are SkillsUSA members.
Part of belonging to the Skills USA program is doing community service.
But their current project has everyone in the Christmas spirit.
The Valley City chapter so far this year has collected glasses for the Lions Club and has an exciting "little free pantry" project coming up; look for more on that in the near future!
But their current project has everyone in the Christmas spirit.
It all started when a student found a big mailbox-shaped container in a school storage space while on a different errand.
Mr. Reinke chuckles as he says "It was your brother that found the box, actually."
I laughed when I heard that, because it is typical of a certain little brother to be distracted from his task - but since I'm a nice big sister, I'll not mention specific amusing instances of this from his childhood. (Like when he was putting the sheep in their pen for the day and decided to be a mutton buster instead… we're still laughing about that one.)
Anyway, that big mailbox used to be for collecting letters to Santa- something I vaguely recognize from my school days.
Now, it's been given a new coat of paint, some sparkly trim, and some physical repurposing to become… a toy collection box!
Students decided to collect toys to brighten Christmas for some kids in our community as another service project under the Skills USA organization, which is the curriculum-directing arm of the Vocational Center.
New toys can be dropped in the big mailbox at the Vocational Center between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The VoTech center's address is 801 Valley Ave SEand for those of us who are directionally challenged, it is two blocks north of the Winter Show building. Those toys collected will be wrapped by the VoTech students - who are Skills USA members themselves - and distributed in concordance with Community Closet.
The Community Closet program, Mrs. Botz from the work placement classroom in the Vocational Center tells me, has been working in our community for about ten years. Valley City residents donate items that are collected in the basement of Our Saviors Lutheran Church, and those items are then dispersed to the community. Over 100 families were impacted last year, says Mrs.Botz.
This year, they plan to take donations up to December 9th. On the 11th of December, setup in Our Saviors church would be a good way for students to pitch in. The next day, December 12th, the community closet will be open and students would be welcomed to help staff that as well.
And those toys will go to families in need.
Feeling the spirit? Donate a toy or two up at the Vocational Centeror send them with your kids to school- and help the Skills USA students usher in the Christmas season.
It might be cold outside, but we can keep our hearts warm. Let's start giving, Valley City!